I have a vivid memory of my mother-in-law’s (formerly sparkling) California kitchen floor spattered over RIDICULOUSLY with sweet potatoes, chicken bits and cereal from our then one-year-old twin girls. We were vacationing (if you can call it that), and their routines were disrupted. Routines like New York bagels; my daughters knew the difference. The food they were getting here was called the same and looked pretty much the same, but the texture and taste were different to them. Toddlers are to FOOD like teenagers are to MOOD. Follow Dr. Jen’s OH PLEASE Picky Toddler Eating Tips!
One food at a time is OK
Toddlers need time to become acquainted and comfortable with new foods just like you do with a new pair of shoes. Some toddlers, actually, prefer to eat only one food at a time!
Foods in the wrong order is OK
It is OK to begin a meal with fruit and end it with veggies.
Who cares what time it is
Have breakfast for dinner, dinner for breakfast. Again, do what works for you and your toddler. Broken up pancakes, eggs and fruit for dinner and chicken bits for breakfast all end up in the same place!
Pack a nutritional punch
Make your choices count. Try and include COLORFUL fruits and veggies, whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, whole wheat bread) and lean protein (chicken breast, lower fat meat) at some points during the day. The average toddler needs about 1000 calories a day, a good way to judge this is 40 calories per INCH of height.
Toddlers are SUPPOSED TO BE PICKY! It is part of the territory. Don’t beat yourself up if he or she isn’t drooling over the sweet potatoes you remembered to bake, or that chicken you specifically went to the market for and cut into tiny bites.
This is a tip that worked well in our house when our twins were toddlers. They ate what we ate! Rather, we ate what they ate! If I roasted a chicken, I included carrots and sweet potatoes in the pan and cut it up for our kids. Hamburgers and avocadoes cut up for the little ones were put onto a bun and jazzed up for us.
Include your little on in meal preparation early on. By the end of a long day, making apple-slice flowers and smiley-face potatoes may be the last thing the busy parent can do – but try and make it FUN! Talk while you are cooking, explain what’s on the plate. Use meal time as a time to work on language and social development.
Size and shape for safety
My number one feeding tip is: Make sure you are feeding your toddler food that is appropriate in size, shape and texture. This means avoiding foods that may be swallowed whole (no whole grapes, raw carrots, nuts, raw celery, hot dogs) and assuring that any foods on your toddler’s plate are small, soft, and easy to chew.
Creating a mealtime that is a fun and loving part of the day, early on, is going to start you off on a good path. Smile when your child spits sweet potatoes across the room onto your new shirt. It’s going to pass soon (and you’ll miss it!).
XOXO Dr. Jen